Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

Say 'No' to the Greek Chorus

CJ Westerberg, February 14, 2012 1:04 PM


Editor's Note:  Anna Quindlen's commencement address to the graduating class of Grinnell College proves the power of words.  As does passion and belief, knowledge and reflection. 

We've "tested" this video on those self-proclaimed as cynical, left, right or center, and found  everyone had a favorite moment.  Many messages, beautifully crafted and
provocative.  Our excerpts are truly a mere glimpse - take the time whenever (under 20 minutes in total).  Questioned whether to give excerpts at all  - too many -  best bet is to go straight to the videos.
                                                                          - C.J. Westerberg
Best College Graduation Speech 2011?
Video Below

" . . . We have gone wrong in the stewardship of this nation and this planet.
We have sometimes gone wrong in the management of our own lives.
So I urge you today to sometimes ignore your elders, much as you love them, and to begin to say "no" to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows
the parameters of a good life
when all it knows is some one-size-fits-all version
of human experience. . . "

". . . Sometimes we were convinced conformity would make life better,
or at least easier, for you.
Sometimes we had a very hard time figuring out where we ended
and you began.
Guide us back to where we started.
Help us not to make mistakes out of fear disguised as love.
Learn not to listen to us when we are wrong,
because sometimes we are.
. ."

"But I can offer you some simple guidance from Henry James,
the most complex and cerebral of men, who once wrote,
'Three things in human life are important.
The first is to be kind . . .
Bring kindness back to our society."

"The mess, the mess!

That's finally what you are leaving with today, the mess
I won't apologize for that.  Instead I want you to see it for what it is:
an engraved invitation to transformation.

Certainty is dead. Long live the flying leap.
Take it. Use it. Bring it.  Bless you all. Congratulations. . ."

Videos Below


  • noah green

    I did not know that Apple and Microsoft worked together to create software.

  • CJ Westerberg

    Which is also a great reader/audience to have - those that can distinguish.

    Thanks, for that, John W. Chesterton quotes - absolutely some of the best.

  • JohnE

    Good point CJ. There were other good points in the speech as well. As I read the transcript though it reminded me of a quote which I was now able to find:

    "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."

    - G.K. Chesterton

  • John -

    Thanks, JohnE for your POV. I don't necessarily agree with every point made by guest posts, or clips that we feature - although we tend to agree with much of them :)

    Point being is we really try to feature really smart/passionate/civil thinking that has some back-up. Sometimes, awful stuff as a counter-point horror, but that tends to be done enough.

  • JohnE

    Quindlen's liberal bent is pretty obvious, but I did like this part:

    'I asked a professor of religion what she did to suit the comfort level of the diverse group of students in her class. “It is not my job to make people comfortable,” she replied. “It is my job to educate them.” I almost stood up and cheered.'

blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook


Cool Smart Teen: Changing the conversation about building stuff

SMW, 11.04.2013

Not just building an app to play with . . . but a test for cancer

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

Stanford.design-thinking. innovation.jpg

Video: What is the link between "design-thinking" and creativity?

SMW, 11.03.2013

Creative Confidence: Must-Watch Interview on Charlie Rose

Read Post | Comments
early education.preschool.jpg

How Much Do Early Years Lead to Student Success?

CJ Westerberg, 11.03.2013

"The idea being that wasn't necessarily to create little engineers everywhere, though that would be great for us. The idea was to take advantage of the natural learning process and curiosity that children have at that age . . ." Tamika Lang, Boeing

Read Post | Comments

NEW: Weekend Reading

SMW, 11.03.2013

Looking for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook is a higher education course (yes, you heard right). Interestingly, social media may inhibit creativity and innovation

Read Post | Comments

The New Resume

SMW, 10.31.2013

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video game-like format is worth . . .

Read Post | Comments

Noam Chomsky: The Purpose of Education

CJ Westerberg, 10.31.2013

"Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own. . . "

Read Post | Comments

Noam Chomsky: In the news again, this time about Twitter and High Schoolers

SMW, 10.31.2013

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, "father of linguistics", political commentator.  From bio: "Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today":               ...

Read Post | Comments

Choke: Test-taking - - - a different way to look at test-prep?

CJ Westerberg, 10.28.2013

"Most students will not find a steady diet of test-prep drills and worksheets to be particularly meaningful, and accordingly, they will not put forth optimal learning effort."

Read Post | Comments

Does your school have a beehive?

CJ Westerberg, 10.27.2013

"If we want children to be inventors, we have to give them opportunities to invent." - 5:00 mark, Mission Hill video

Read Post | Comments